Identification of Naegleria fowleri in domestic water sources by nested PCR

Francine Marciano-Cabral, Rebecca MacLean, Alex Mensah, Laurie LaPat-Polasko
Applied and Environmental Microbiology 2003, 69 (10): 5864-9
The free-living amoeboflagellate Naegleria fowleri is the causative agent of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM), a rapidly fatal disease of the central nervous system. In the United States, the disease is generally acquired while swimming and diving in freshwater lakes and ponds. In addition to swimming, exposure to N. fowleri and the associated disease can occur by total submersion in bathwater or small backyard wading pools. In the present study, swipe samples and residual pipe water from homes in Arizona were examined for N. fowleri by nested PCR due to the death of two previously healthy children from PAM. Since neither child had a history of swimming in a freshwater lake or pond prior to the onset of disease symptoms, the domestic water supply was the suspected source of infection. Of 19 samples collected from bathroom and kitchen pipes and sink traps, 17 samples were positive for N. fowleri by PCR. A sample from a Micro-Wynd II filter was obtained by passing water from bathtubs through the filter. Organisms attached to the filter also tested positive by PCR. The two samples that tested negative for N. fowleri were one that was obtained from a kitchen sink trap and a swipe sample from the garbage disposal of one home.

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